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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I suppose one tries to focus on the agenda of a particular meeting. To my knowledge the discussions about the coalition against terrorism between the Prime Minister and his international colleagues continue on a weekly basis. That was not the focus of the agenda at Brussels, and the Prime Minister was reporting on the discussions at Brussels. There may be some value, but on a continuing basis I am unsure how much value there is in constant repetition from the European Union of what is well known to be the position.

Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, speaking as a farmer, does the noble and learned Lord appreciate that agriculture requires long-term planning which is not forthcoming from the Government? Can he be more specific? Do the Government have in mind that the present agricultural production grants will continue to 2006, plus or minus what may be decided after the Dohar discussions, and that thereafter to 2013 the grants will continue with a limited increase for the future? If not, can he spell out where they are going? It is all very well to say that the CAP will be reformed, but as no one knows what the reforms will be, agriculture is placed in an impossible position.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the allowances will continue up to 2006, but beyond that, to the year 2013, as the Statement indicates, future agricultural spending will be capped. Because of the effect of the calculations on a notional inflation rate of only 1 per cent, in real terms there will be a reduction from the original proposals.

Lord Richard: My Lords, I am sure that my noble and learned friend is aware that reform of the common agricultural policy is not exactly a new subject in European affairs. When I was a member of the Commission 20 years ago, we spent most of our time on two issues: first, the British budget rebate, and secondly, reform of the common agricultural policy. Does my noble and learned friend accept that, if the common agricultural policy is to be reformed, it will be carried out, not as the Conservative Opposition now

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suggest, by a crusade—one cannot avoid observing that they were not altogether successful at achieving it in their 18 years in office—but by what Sidney Webb said in another context, "the inevitability of gradualness"?

My figures may not be totally accurate, but I recollect that 20 years ago the common agricultural policy was taking around 75 per cent of the budget of the EEC. That figure is now down to 45 per cent. I hope my noble friend agrees that the way to handle the CAP is to recognise that it is a matter of some considerable importance to other countries in the Community, and to let the Commission and the process proceed in the way that it has.

After listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, I cannot help but observe that it would be wrong—I hope my noble and learned friend agrees—to leave the decision as to whether or not Saddam Hussein was in breach to Mr Blix. If anyone has to decide that it should be the Security Council because it is a matter of the most enormous importance and surely cannot be left to United Nations' officials.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Richard. I was pleased to hear his citation of the "inevitability of gradualness" in the presence of the former general secretary of the Fabian Society. My noble friend is right to say that the proportion has reduced to 45 per cent. I agree with him in his adjudication of how further reform should be taken forward. In fairness to the former general secretary of the Fabian Society, I am unsure whether she said what my noble friend Lord Richard may have heard. I did not understand the noble Baroness to say that it must be left to the inspectors; I thought she said that it should not be left to a single interested participant, aka the United States of America.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, on the reference to the president of the European Union reassuring us once again that subsidiarity would come to our aid with regard to the bureaucratisation and centralisation of the European Union—subsidiarity runs like a leitmotif through the rhetoric of the European Union—it is not always apparent where one can find concrete examples of the principle in action. Are the Minister and the Government concerned about the rate at which Europe continues to centralise and the rate at which it continues to legislate? For example, last year there were over 3,600 directives and regulations. Is the Minister concerned, as I am, that the countries in line to become members of the European Union—like everyone else I am extremely happy at that prospect—may have second thoughts, in the run up to the referenda that each of them will have to hold, about the impact on their democracies, sovereignty and autonomy of the direction in which the European Union is heading? Have the Government any concrete and specific plans to give some reality to the principle of subsidiarity?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I hope I can assist the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. This

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chimes with discussions we have had in your Lordships' House and in the European Union Committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, with the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, as vice- chairman. One of the working groups to which I referred presented its conclusions. The conclusion on subsidiarity, which I shall paraphrase because of time, was the necessity of an agreement, as the noble Lord implied, on how to improve the enforcement of subsidiarity, not least through an early warning mechanism involving national parliaments. I know that that is a cause dear to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and I hope it is some reassurance.

Enterprise Bill

4.28 p.m.

Proceedings after Third Reading resumed.

Clause 17 [Monetary claims]:

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 2:


    Page 7, line 38, at end insert—


"( ) In section 46(2) of the 1998 Act, there is inserted after paragraph (h)—
"(i) to issue a notice under section 26 requiring the production of specified documents or information;
(j) to investigate premises without a warrant under section 27;
(k) to investigate premises with a warrant under section 28;
(l) not to investigate a complaint under Chapter I or II;
(m) not to grant interim measures under section 35.""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 2 was tabled both at Committee and Report stages. None of the measures stipulated in the amendment is capable of being appealed to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, but each has significant effects for the party concerned and, at present, can be challenged only by judicial review. In my submission, it is entirely consistent with the Government's wish to have competition matters dealt with by bodies versed in competition law that the decisions listed above should go to the CAT and not to the courts.

In Committee, on 18th July 2002, at col. 1429 of Hansard, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, stated that the Government did not propose to add any category of new appealable decisions, with the exception of the category covered by paragraph (m),


    "not to grant interim measures under section 35".

The noble Lord continued that the other proposed additions were not appropriate as they would extend the category of appealable decisions to intermediate or investigatory steps taken by the OFT. The noble Lord further stated that parties at the stage of intermediary investigatory steps could still use judicial review which carries with it the opportunity for interim measures.

As I suspect the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is by now aware, our view is that that approach is inconsistent. The Government have created a body with competition expertise and it is only sensible, therefore, that the body deals with all aspects of the OFT's handling of investigations.

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In response to the amendment on Report in your Lordships' House, on 15th October 2002, reported at cols. 750 and 751 of Hansard, the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, argued that granting a right of appeal on interim investigatory steps would increase the length of the OFT's investigation and generally slow down the whole process in a detrimental manner. In relation to the specific proposal concerning paragraph (l)—the proposal not to investigate a complaint—the noble Lord said that the OFT needed to have a discretion to deploy its resources appropriately.

We do not disagree with those observations. Our case is based on identifying the most efficient body to deal with those complaints. The Government recognised that those steps listed in the amendment might be reviewed under judicial review. That is a very time-consuming process. Our proposal is that the Competition Appeal Tribunal is better placed to ensure that the OFT's procedures are effectively and efficiently carried out with proper respect for due process and the rights of defence. The OFT, for example, might adopt a policy, as has the European Community Commission in the Automec case, not to investigate minor infringements. If it does, the CAT is better placed to consider whether a decision, in any case, is in accordance with that policy.

I note that Amendment No. 43 is grouped with the amendment, and I should like also to speak to that. Under the Competition Act 1998, a person who has applied to the OFT for a decision that an agreement or practice does not infringe Chapter 1 or 2, or is entitled to an exemption under Section 9, may apply to the High Court for directions if there has been undue delay on the part of the OFT to determine an application for a decision.

There is no similar procedure available to be used by a complainant who believes that there is undue delay in the handling of his complaint by the OFT. This clause is intended to remedy that. This clause also gives the jurisdiction to the CAT because it is believed that this is the appropriate body to regulate the activities of the OFT, both in terms of substance and procedure.

I moved a similar amendment on Report, on 15th October 2002, at cols. 746 and 747 of Hansard. The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, considered that the amendment would restrict the OFT's ability to prioritise its caseload and would hamper the investigation with alleged serious breaches of the Act. He indicated that, on occasions, the OFT is dependent on further information from third parties in order to progress an investigation.

With great respect to the noble Lord, that does not deal with the point. The Competition Act enables a party who has applied for a decision for an exemption to apply to the High Court if there has been a delay by the OFT in handling that decision. In dealing with decisions, the OFT will also have to take into account views and information received from third parties. It is not consistent, therefore, to say that there should not be any remedy or relief in complaints cases.

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Clearly, if a complainant has erred in making an application, the Competition Appeal Tribunal would no doubt make that clear and potentially award costs against the complainant. That would send a signal to those who might otherwise make an ill-founded application. I beg to move.


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